Apr. 19, 2008.
The most important date in Tampa Bay Rays franchise history.
Six games into his major-league career, in what came as a hasty, surprise move to many, the Tampa Bay Rays smartly locked up the 22 year old, perennial All-Star-in-waiting Evan Longoria to a very manageable, market-friendly six-year deal worth $17.5 million with incentives that could raise the deal to nine years and $44.5 million.
I'd never seen anything like it before. $19 million guaranteed to a player who literally had played just over a week and a handful of games against premier competition.
Many people criticized the move, calling the shrewed actions of a small-market franchise into question over the requirement that the extension be agreed upon as a litmus test for the right to stay and play on their club in the Major Leagues. Some saw its as being held in corporate servitude.
Looking back on it a year later, consider that second number to be easily attained, barring injury, meaning the soonest he's be eligible for free agency is after the 2016 season in which he'll be 31 years old.
All Longoria has done since is hit for a respectable .291 career average, put up solid power numbers, provide highlight reel defense on a nightly basis, and elevate his status from a All Star third baseman to MVP consideration in a single year.
His numbers 38 HRs, 132 RBI averages projected over a single season prove his staying power as does his 54 RBI which lead the league through 47 games played, good for a 176 RBI projection, the highest since Hack Wilson's major league record of 190 in 1930.
Locking up the Young Guns
We've seen this trend of small-market clubs locking up their superstars well before the first years of free agency or arbitration increase lately with the extensions given to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, Rockies, Tulowitzki close to six-year, $30M deal">Coloardo's Troy Tulowizki, Minnesota's Justin Morneau, and most recently Washington's Ryan Zimmerman.
All are in excess of five years and all lock them up with their original, drafted teams as it was meant to be.
Is it a trend, or a blip on the radar screen? My hope, the former for the good of the game.
Ryan Zimmerman actually wanted to stay in D.C.
In debuting last night, while going 0-for-4 at the plate, praise was given by nearly every onlooker for the way he called the game and the superb heads-up defense he provided. 40,000 fans showed up at OPACY to see their next marketing machine take the field.
One that hopefully won't be eligible for free agency until at least after the 2016 season, if the Orioles get to keep him that long.
With miserly owner Peter Angelos you never know, but even he isn't dumb enough to let this one go is he?
If he's smart he'll take a look at Tampa Bay's success last year as the standard and look at their place in the standings and new found base that has been created in the Bay as motivation for doing the only logical thing.
The first sign of success or maturity out of Weiters and GM Andy McPhail and the Orioles should get it done-before its too late and he's priced himself off the team and out of state.